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City View: The Alexander Garden

After agreeing to place statues in the garden, the City Duma then had to determine who deserved one.

Published: September 3, 2014 (Issue # 1827)

  • The statue of Nikolai Przhevalsky, a naturalist and explorer who traveled through the vast steppes of Central and East Asia cataloguing plants and animals.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A defining feature of St. Petersburg is the various parks and gardens that dot the map from north to south and east to west, providing places of tranquility and quiet in the urban sprawl of Russias second-largest city.

Theres Park Pobedy in the south, which was once home to a brick factory and, more morbidly, a crematorium for the dead during the Leningrad blockade. Theres the Summer Garden along the banks of the Neva, whose fence is so beautiful that, legend has it, a man who sailed all the way from Britain to see the city turned back at the sight of it, as he believed nothing else could match its beauty. North of the center are Krestovsky and Yelagin islands, providing local families an ideal spot to picnic.

One urban oasis that stands out is the Alexander Garden, which abuts the Admiralty building and stretches from Palace Square to Senate Square. Before its reincarnation as one of the citys most popular parks, the area was covered by the fortifications of the Admiralty. A wide avenue was built in front of the building and it became a popular place for the citys aristocracy and nobility to meet and be seen, its fame immortalized in verse in Pushkins Eugene Onegin. It wasnt until 1872 that a decision was made to transform the layout from a pedestrian thoroughfare to a more scenic, natural setting.

Responsibility for the garden fell upon the shoulders of Eduard Regel, a German horticulturalist and botanist who had been in charge of St. Petersburgs botanical garden since 1855. Born in 1812, he graduated from the University of Bonn and was the head of Zurichs botanical garden after completing his studies in Gottingen, Germany. It was thanks to his efforts that St. Petersburgs botanical garden became one of Europes most beautiful.

The Alexander Garden first opened in 1874, named after the then emperor Alexander II, and the park was an immediate hit with locals. In 1880, the St. Petersburg City Duma decided to commemorate the countrys greatest cultural figures with statues of them placed throughout the garden.

While the city government was well in favor of the proposal, deciding who was important enough to earn a statue in the Alexander Garden was another story. Rejected candidates included Saints Cyril and Methodius, who created the Cyrillic alphabet, the poets Gavrila Derzhavin and Nikolai Karamzin, and famed scholar Mikhail Lomonosov.

Of those deemed worthy of being represented in the Alexander Garden was Nikolai Przhevalsky, a naturalist and explorer who traveled through the vast steppes of Central and East Asia cataloguing plants and animals. Unfortunately, his statue is best known today in the park not only because of the stone camel resting at its base but because of Przhevalskys startling resemblance to Iosef Stalin.

The honored (and less Stalin-resembling) artists whose statues can still be seen to this day include Nikolay Gogol, the composer Mikhail Glinka and the poets Mikhail Lermontov and Vasily Zhukovsky.

After the Bolsheviks seized power, the garden was renamed to the Maxim Gorky Workers Garden, a name it would keep until 1989.

During World War II, as the city savagely struggled for survival, none of the trees in the garden were cut down despite the terrible need for firewood in a city dying from cold, hunger and disease by the thousands. However, German shelling and air raids heavily damaged the park, and when the siege was finally lifted at the beginning of 1944, the garden was restored to its former glory.



Wednesday, Sept. 17

AmChams Investment and Legal Committee Meeting convenes this morning in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center at 9 a.m.

Learn more about the science of teaching English at todays EFL Seminar hosted by the British Book Center. Revolving around the topic of learning styles, the workshop will help attendees better understand the different effective learning methods that can be implemented to learn English more effectively.

Thursday, Sept. 18

Get your nerd on at Boomfest, St. Petersburgs answer to the United States popular ComicCon. Starting today, this international festival of comics will take over venues throughout the city center and includes exhibitions of comics and illustrations, film screenings, competitions and the chance to meet the genres authors, artists and experts.

Friday, Sept. 19

SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.

Saturday, Sept. 20

Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.

Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.

Sunday, Sept. 21

Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.

Monday, Sept. 22

Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.

Tuesday, Sept. 23

Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.

Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.

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